Green Party Leader Elizabeth May was a highlight of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) 74th annual conference in Halifax. By coincidence, May spoke to the FCM last Sunday on World Environment Day.
May spoke about the need to work on preserving urban forests. “Cities and towns need to speak up about risks to communities if we don’t deal with environmental issues soon,” she said to a full assembly and to wide applause. “Climate changes need adaptation and crumbling infrastructure needs government of Canada funding for local projects.”
May received loud appreciation for stating, “You are the level of government that is most progressive and responsive to the people.”
Master of ceremonies for the conference was a familiar face to Montrealers. Dennis Trudeau was the anchor for the CBC News at Six for many years in Montreal. Completely bilingual, Trudeau ably moderated all the plenary sessions of the FCM in both official languages.
New official opposition leader Jack Layton received a very warm welcome to the organization he once presided over. Layton also served as a Toronto City Councillor and Metro Toronto Councillor in the 1980s and 1990s.
Noting that the FCM represents almost 2000 democratically elected governments Layton pointed out that he has missed only one single FCM annual conference since 1978.
“Question period (in the House of Commons) has become an embarrassment,” Layton said. “We commit not to heckle,” he said, offering a new way of representing the Canadian people.
On the topic on the federal budget Layton underscored his disappointment in that there wasn’t a word on long-term infrastructure renewal for municipalities.
Some other notable comments by Layton include:
“Stephen Harper must not create tax cuts just to download costs to municipalities in the budget.”
“The government must share more gas tax dollars to improve mass transit. This will help to cut down on commute times and pollution.”
“The federal government must work in closer partnership with cities and towns.”
“You (municipal mayors and councillors) play a major leadership role locally where our citizens live.”
“The agenda of our cities and towns must be front and centre on the government’s agenda.”